Those Books You Just Love

3 10 2011

I had planned to do a review today, but it turns out that’s not possible (I’m still reading Paper Towns). Then I planned to do a review of ARCs….but my ARC isn’t in my poessission at the moment. (I am getting it back soon, so wait for that post.)

So instead I’m going to talk about something else. Amazing books.

Recently it seems I’ve read a lot of amazing books.

 Like this one:

And this one:

And:

So I’ve been lucky lately, reading a torrent of books. And I’ve adored all three of those books, and the next few books I have lined up sound just as great. So, I’ve been wondering: what makes these books great? What sets them apart from the rest? What makes them Printz Award winners (Jellicoe Road), New York Times Bestsellers (Looking for Alaska) and books that aren’t released but already filled with hype (Liesl and Po)? I came up with three reasons why. The reasons are simple, but they really truly impact the story.
So,  PAIGE’S TOP THREE REASONS WHY THESE BOOKS WORK:
  1. Characters Just thinking about the stories, the characters pop into my mind. Strong, erratic Taylor. Shy, timid, Liesl. Bright, fun loving Po, filled with humor. Sexy babe Alaska, erratic and exciting. Self-deprecatating Miles. Just thinking about those characters, they all pop into my mind fully fledged. And why? The authors took time. They took time to show their characters, bring out their personalities. Just the simple things — Miles’s humor, Liesl’s drawing talents, Taylor’s anxiety — make them different, set them apart from all the other characters in MG and YA now. They’re not simply thrown onto the page and expected to be loved; you learn about the characters and grow to love them that way. The characters are all original and creative: Miles memorizes the last words of famous people; Taylor is the leader of a secret underground community; and Liesl posesses a great magic. In writing, I always hear the same thing over and over: describe your characters, show them, don’t tell or info dump. And these authors truly did that.
  2. Plot More and more, it seems, plots are becoming cliche. You know, the same old “girl meets boy, falls in love” or “girl discovers she posesses a power”. And all three of the books — Jellicoe, Alaska, and Liesl — that I’ve read recently fall into those tropes. Liesl has a power; Alaska and Miles fall in love; Taylor and Jonah start a relationship. But it’s more than that. The authors make the story original, twist the cliches into something better. Another saying I hear sometimes is cliche can be good. If used wisely and carefully, cliches can make a story better. Another thing is the originality. These are the plots of the three books: girl leads an underground community in a territory war; girl sets off on a journey with a magical box; boy finds himself attracted to danger. Those descriptions have elements of cliche in them, but they truly become more. There aren’t many stories with those kinds of things in them, making the stories more and more different. Check the recent New York Times Bestseller lists — readers want something more, something new. Recently, I was talking to a few people who said that they thought certain people on a website’s ideas were getting less original. Green, Marchetta, and Oliver surely didn’t fall into those tropes; instead, they triumphed over cliche and made their plots original.
  3. Magic This last example is hard to explain. There’s magic in these books — but for different reasons. Oliver’s prose sings, full of lyricism and excitement. Marchetta’s characters are amazingly full-fledged, breaking steroytpes and cliches and becoming poignant and beautiful. Green has a mix of all three: great characters, prose and amazing descriptions. Their magic, their talents make the story sing, make the story rise above tropes and cliches. The author’s talents are truly what makes the story amazing, and it is obvious all three of them worked hard on their novels. Magic is what makes people love the story, what makes it rise above the “good” to “OHMYGOD AMAZING”. Magic is different for every story, for every author, but when you find a book that has magic it is truly something to behold.
So there you have it — what makes me love a book. What makes you love a book? It might be different. I want to know.
Also, I recommend all three books (though Liesl will be released November 2011). They all sing with magic.
Thanks,
Paige
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